Registration is now open for the Third Annual Hollywood Fringe Festival, a noncurated open-invitation performance festival situated in Hollywood, and slated for mid-June. For more info, go to HollywoodFringe.org.
Also, the Festival announced yesterday that its headquarters, aka Fringe Central, will be the Open Fist Theatre, located on Santa Monica Boulevard, near El Centro Avenue.
Click here for the latest New Theater Reviews, or go to the jump; Later today, check out this week's Stage Feature comparing the interrelated plays and productions of A Raisin in the Sun and Clybourne Park — the former a presentation of Ebony Repertory Theatre at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, the latter a Playwrights Horizons production at the Mark Taper Forum.
This week's Stage Listings coming Thursday
NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication February 2, 2012
GO CLYBOURNE PARK
Bruce Norris' satire of race relations spun from Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, and set in both 1959 and 2009. Mark Taper Forum, 134 North Grand Ave., dwntwn.; thru Feb. 26. centertheatregroup.org See Stage Feature.
GO DREAMS OF THE WASHER KING
Dangerous is the play that marries a supernatural bent with a nonlinear narrative: With story lines leaping back and forth in time, adding a spectral element blurs the line of reality even further, and risks confusing an audience whose brains are already working overtime. Although that seemed to be the case on the opening night of Christopher Wall's West Coast premiere, his gamble almost works. Teenage Ryan (Aaron Shand), obsessed with catching a trace of his deceased father on tape, and his emotionally broken bank-teller mother (Ann Hearn) eke out an existence in a tiny Maine town until the unsettling Wade (Dirk Etchison) and his daughter (Jennifer Levinson) move in next door. Wall begins dropping hints as to his master plan in the first scene, tantalizing bits that hook you in and keep you curious through intermission. The problem, however, is the second half shies away from the shocking reveal that closes the first act, and what was an unusual and interesting buildup falls flat in a series of messy scenes that stop and start jerkily. Unfortunately, Wall and director Andre Barron didn't consider the limitations of the theater — this would play out more gracefully on-screen. Still, there's promise here, especially with a reworking of the second act and a more tightly defined identity. Theatre 40, 241 S. Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Feb. 26. (310) 364-0535, theatre40.org. (Rebecca Haithcoat)
EXPECTING TO FLY
Michael Hyman's one-act surveys the wreckage of a relationship gone wrong between two gay men. Jared's (Justin Mortelliti) tenuous life of bar cruising, fast sex, booze and prescription drugs is brought into acute relief by the continuous presence of the ghost of his one-time husband, Sean (Casey Kringlen). The scenario engenders heated exchanges, recriminations, a smoldering reservoir of guilt, a litany of recollections about their erstwhile lives together, and the unpleasant incidents and conditions that eventually led to Sean's leap from the roof of the Chelsea Hotel. Hyman's decent writing doesn't offset the dense stasis that sets in early on, or a central conceit that wears terribly thin. The convenient Twilight Zone-inspired finale doesn't offer much satisfaction either, but the performances are outstanding. Elephant Space, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through March 4. (323) 960-5772, plays411.com/fly. (Lovell Estell III)
It's uncanny how uninspired directorial choices, unformed performances and artless production design can throw the unforgiving glare of the spotlight onto a text. For director Laurie Woolery's disappointing staging of playwright Tanya Saracho's Mexican drug war-set adaptation of The Cherry Orchard, the illumination proves brutally unflattering. With the exception of the nouveau riche Lopakhin (here played by Justin Huen as the narcotraficante Lopez), Saracho pares down Chekhov's dramatis personae to the principal women: the nostalgia-trapped matriarch of the impoverished, land-owning Galvan family, Maité (Yetta Gottesman); her severe, romantically unrequited older daughter, Valeria (Isabelle Ortega); young sister Anita (Diana Romo); and the household's uppity chambermaid, Dunia (Sabina Zuniga Varela). But Saracho's truncation seems a pallid compromise. Crippled by both Frederica Nascimento's drab set and the lack of a Trofimov to articulate the anger underlying the bloody, offstage social upheavals, the play musters precious little of the comic absurdity or pathos implied by the word Chekhovian. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through March 11. (323) 663-1525,
fountaintheatre.com. (Bill Raden)
THE INDIANS ARE COMING TO DINNER
In playwright Jennifer W. Rowland's new comedy, it's 1984 and boorish San Francisco cement company CEO Harold Blackburn (Michael Rothhaar), a Reagan-era alpha male if ever there was one, essentially destroys his family to pursue his unrealistic dream of being named the next ambassador to India — a goal he hopes to achieve by throwing a fancy dinner to woo a well-placed Indian politician. Boasting some winning one-liners and artful emotional interactions, Rowland's play teems with complex themes and ideas centering on Reagan-era entitlement and the despair of upper-middle-class mediocrity. However, the work would benefit from another draft or two to cull some sequences of aimless dialogue and to nuance the sometimes shrill characterizations. Director Julia Fletcher's character-driven production suffers from occasional pacing lapses, but Rothhaar's blustering performance as the family's Jackie Gleason-like King Baby Patriarch is a compelling, tragic turn. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through March 25. (310) 822-8392, pacificresidenttheatre.com. (Paul Birchall)
GO A RAISIN IN THE SUN
TROILUS AND CRESSIDA
At the outset of this “problem play” — a difficult Shakespearean text to categorize owing to its historic, tragic and romantic elements — the Trojan War has been raging for seven years and the battle over Helen (Eliza Kiss) finds the Greeks stuck on Trojan soil sans a winning strategy. As the story builds toward a key standoff between Achilles (an impressively athletic Matt Calloway) and Hector (a likewise battle-ready Napolean Tavale), a love story also blooms between Trojan soldier Troilus (Alex Parker) and the high-born Trojan Cressida (Taylor Fisher, whose ability to hit the requisite beats and follow the emotional transitions of her character is admirable), but Cressida's father has sided with the Greeks, a bad omen for the lovers. Minimalist staging is the right choice for the small space at the Whitmore-Lindley; the absence of scenic design puts the focus on the able ensemble. Charles Pasternak's fight choreography thrills to no end. As director, Pasternak mines the war story skillfully but never finds the sizzle or urgency integral to the central love story. Porters of Hellgate at the Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Feb. 19. brownpapertickets.com/event/216520. (Amy Lyons)
WHAT THE BUTLER SAW
Director Alan Patrick Kenny's staging of Joe Orton's classic demonstrates how even accomplished American actors can stumble when trying to pull off British farce. The play jump-starts around the efforts of a lecherous psychiatrist (John Walcott) to conceal his attempted seduction of a pretty job applicant (Amanda Troop) from his battle-ax wife (Melinda Parrett). Chaos ensues, aggravated further by the arrival of a loony government official (Geoffrey Wade) bent on uncovering madness and dissipation in every corner. Written in 1967, when homosexuality in Britain was still illegal, the play relentlessly skewers psychiatry, gender roles, inept dysfunctional bureaucrats, prissy good manners and the whole notion of what constitutes sane and insane in a hypocritical society. Time has frayed the edges of Orton's once-insurrectionary lampoon; a bigger problem in this production is the ensemble's failure, despite individually capable performances, to collectively replicate the mindset that spurred Orton's outrage. Odyssey Theater Ensemble, 2055 Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (no mat. perf March 4); also March 4, 7 p.m.; Wed., Feb. 8 & 22, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Feb. 2 & 16, March 1 & 8, 8 p.m.; through March 11. (310) 477-2055, odysseytheatre.com. (Deborah Klugman)
WHO'S HUNGRY? Using an assortment of toy cars, miniature trees and puppets, including Delft figurines, shadow puppets and a 2-foot-high manipulated Bunraku figure that spews expletives, Dan Froot and Dan Hurlin's experimental tabletop drama attempts to humanize the increasingly common experience of homelessness and hunger. Ironically presented on a long banquet table, five individual stories of Santa Monica's down-and-outs are ingeniously acted out in miniature, each loosely sketching a downward trajectory toward destitution and rescue. These oral histories are sometimes heard as a prerecorded voice-over from the subject, at other times spoken by one of the four barefoot dancers gracefully manipulating the props and puppets. The whimsical show is sparsely accompanied by appropriately quirky music that includes vaguely derivative melodies, an instance of tuneless singing and simple percussion played live by a trio of musicians, including composer Amy Denio. The meandering, occasionally baffling tales offer some insight but little resolution, and peter out after an hour's presentation. Highways, 18th Street Arts Center, Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 5 p.m.; through Feb. 4. whoshungryproject.com. (Pauline Adamek)